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Getting Involved with the Democratic Party

My name is Kate Donaghue.  I am a DFAer and a member of the Democratic State Committee in Massachusetts.  The Democratic Party wants people to get involved, both in campaigns and in the Democratic Party infrastructure.
As activists, I expect that the readers of "My Vote is My Voice" are involved in campaigns.  But are you involved in the Democratic Party?  Today I'm going to talk briefly about why you should consider getting involved with the Democratic Party and how to go about getting involved.
People new to campaigns sometimes don't see the reasons for getting involved in the Democratic Party.  You may believe that it is more time and cost effective for you to volunteer directly with a campaign, rather than with the Democratic Party. 
Campaigns are going out of business.  Win, lose or draw, they are coming to an end.  Even if a campaign wins, it will go into a dormant period for a period of time.
The Company of Other Democrats: The Democratic Party offers a place for you to stay involved after election day.  Building and maintaining an effective network of Democratic contacts is one of the most important reasons to become involved in the Democratic Party.
Candidate Recruitment: The Democratic Party provides a basis for the all important effort of candidate recruitment.  As an aside, I began my adult political activism when Michael Dukakis lost the governorship of Massachusetts to a conservative Democrat.  It was then that I realized the right people don't get elected by accident.  It took me twenty years to realize that the right people don't run by accident.
Meeting Candidates: Potential candidates reach out to the Democratic Party infrastructure.  Active members of Democratic organizations are in a position to get to know potential candidates personally.  This access positions individual members to get to know candidates. The Democratic Party organization also helps candidates by providing a means for them to meet activists.
A Voice at the Table: Decisions of the Democratic Party are made by members.  From the local level to the presidency, the rules that govern our Party's nomination process belong to us.  People who are involved in the governance of the Democratic Party have a vote and a voice in creating the processes that ultimately determine who are our nominees, in establishing the platform and the direction of the Democratic Party.   
There are many other reasons to get involved.  I have highlighted just a few.

Posted by KateD on May 15, 2006 at 07:50 PM | Permalink


Welcome Kate! Thanks for taking this time to talk with us about the Democratic Party and the overall campaign facing us this year. I know we're in direct competition with the President tonight, but grassroots organizers need to know that their thoughts and hardwork are as important - if not more so - than policy statements from an administration designed to "pit" neighbor against neighbor, and take our attention away from the war in Iraq. Thanks for being here.

Posted by: Bob | May 15, 2006 7:55:21 PM


Thanks for your kind words. Charlene's grassroots work demonstrates how effective a small group of people working together can be.


Posted by: KateD | May 15, 2006 7:58:52 PM

I'm laughing at myself. Kate, I put my kind words on the leaders blog by accident. Talk about too many windows open at once. : ) Here's what I posted.


Thank you for your thought provoking post.

You are right. Many of MViMVers are involved in campaigns; some of them are running for office and others are helping anyway they can.

Some MViMVer have had very positive experiences working within their local or regional Dem Party while others have not been so fortunate. As we know, sometimes organizations that have been around for a long time resist newcomers or even just new ideas.

Do you have any advice for those that have been frustrated with acceptance of the status quo at their local meetings?

Posted by: Charlene | May 15, 2006 8:00:08 PM

Bob, I've gotten so good at denying our current administration is still in office that I didn't even know they were competition tonight. ; )

Kate, thank you for the kind words. Al and Jessica started the fire. Thanks to a great crew and guests like you the fire is still burning (Bob, Jessica and many others).

Posted by: Charlene | May 15, 2006 8:05:09 PM

Kate - I was a registered Independent until '92 then went Demo. Almost immediately I was swamped with mail to give $$ to the DNC - senatorial and house campaigns as well as many national candidates to give, give, give. Honestly, I'm not in that league when it comes to $$ and it has totally turned me off. Between that and phone calls at all hours - I'm totally frustrated with the Demo party.

Posted by: Bob | May 15, 2006 8:07:28 PM

Now, we've got thunder along with the 13" of rain on the north shore of Massachusetts. I mention this in case I disappear from tonight's conversation.

Kate, you're working hard on Deval Patrick's campaign. How is it going? I've got some friends very excited at the thought of Deval as Governor of Massachusetts. We had a question during an earlier blog about Deval's campaign. I'll go see if I can find it.

Posted by: Charlene | May 15, 2006 8:10:10 PM


My advice is to persevere. Keep showing up. Get to know the people involved. If they ask for volunteers to help, say yes. That is the way newcomers get accepted.

Look for common ground with long time members.

Line up support for a project that you want in advance. If you call someone and ask for their support in advance, then you can overcome objections early, not om the meeting floor. If a member knows you value his or her support and you present something that you both have bought into, you will have a much better chance of success.


Posted by: Kate | May 15, 2006 8:10:48 PM

Kate - you mentioned earlier that there were a lot of primaries going on in MA this week - how have they shaped up?

Posted by: Bob | May 15, 2006 8:16:39 PM

Thanks for adding the advice about calling someone in advance. I'm forever running in too many directions to think in advance of drumming up acceptance or learning what the barriers are at the meeting.

I obviously haven't adjusted to the idea that even though meeting attendees share similar values and goals, we don't all agree on how best to reach our goals.

Posted by: Charlene | May 15, 2006 8:18:57 PM

Bob and Charlene,

Just to clarify for Bob, the primaries going on now will be going to our convention in June and then we will have our primary in September.

Charlene, since I was advertised as a DSC member, I would rather focus on the work of the Democratic Party rather than a candidate. We can talk about that another time.

I think that the primaries are going well. In Massachusetts, we have a 15% rule. A candidate must get 15% of the convention vote to appear on the ballot in November. Because of this, all the statewide candidates spend time meeting with activists in small groups across the state. They look to the Democratic Party infrastructure to find the activists.

In a very real way, "My vote is my voice" when you are one of 4,000 to 5,000 votes on a Saturday in June.

Posted by: Kate | May 15, 2006 8:23:49 PM

Bob, I can't find the post that asked about Deval Patrick's campaign. Do you recall the question?

Barack Obama is coming to Boston to rally for Deval Patrick. Seems like a brilliant teaming to me. I can't wait to hear them both. I heard Deval Patrick for the first time at the MA State Dem Convention last spring. He was brilliant; what a wonderful speaker. He came in to a largely unaware audience that was not paying much attention and he left to a resounding standing ovation. The stadium was rocking; it was amazing.

Now, I have friends that are coming back from hearing him speak and they get it.

Posted by: Charlene | May 15, 2006 8:28:15 PM

Getting people to "buy in", in advance can make a huge difference. In Massachusetts a group of bloggers is working together with some traditional Democrats to sponsor a Lieutenant Governor's candidates forum. The work done in advance helped people find that they could work together for a common goal.


Posted by: Kate | May 15, 2006 8:29:40 PM

Kate - what is your direct role within the MA Demo state committee? And how do you coordinate your activities on a grassroots level?

Posted by: Bob | May 15, 2006 8:30:06 PM

Kate, Do you have any advise for people that live in an area that dosn't have an active Dem Committee?

Posted by: Jessica | May 15, 2006 8:38:47 PM


I'm what we call a "ballot" elected member of the Democratic State Committee. I represent a Senate District, which in Massachusetts is about 150,000 people. Registered Democrats vote in the presidential primary for their DSC members.

As a DSC member, I try to attend as many of the Town and Ward committee meetings in my district as I can.

The other DSC members and I worked together to start a regional group in our area. Through the regional group, we have been able to bring statewide candidates out to even some very small towns.


Posted by: Kate | May 15, 2006 8:39:31 PM

Char - Kate: in reference to the 4/24 blog with Tara Liloia DFA - Charlene stated that there are grassroots activists on both sides of the Deval campaign - and perhaps it was time to open the discussion between them and address their concerns.

Posted by: Bob | May 15, 2006 8:41:30 PM


My advice for people who do not have an active Democratic Committee in their area differs depending on the situation.

If there is no committee, find out what it takes to start one. In Massachusetts, all you need i three people to petition the Party and you can start a committee.

If there is a committee, but it is inactive, then my advice is to work with the chair to activate the committee. Sometimes all it takes is a guest speaker, and someone else to step up, to re-energize people. I see a downward spiral sometimes. The chair doesn't invite a speaker for fear of an embarrassingly small attendance. No one comes to the meetings because there is no speaker. Get the chair to buy in to a meeting that makes the chair and the town look good.

Remember success breed success! Failure breeds failure. The worse thing you can do is nothing. If you try something and it doesn't work, figure out what went wrong, fix it and try againa.


Posted by: Kate | May 15, 2006 8:46:36 PM

Sorry, Kate, didn't mean to put you in such a position. Just noticed your earlier reply.

Posted by: Charlene | May 15, 2006 8:47:59 PM

I find your statement that "campaigns" are going out of business interesting. Does this means that future elections will only be run by political machines?

Posted by: Bob | May 15, 2006 8:50:56 PM

Kate - I like your statement about doing nothing - if so, figure out what went wrong and try again. Great advice!

Posted by: Bob | May 15, 2006 8:53:12 PM

Thanks Kate. How long have you been involved in the Dem Party? Do you think there is a disconnect between newcomers to the party and the people who have been involved in the party forever?

Posted by: Jessica | May 15, 2006 8:53:27 PM

Avoiding the issue of a specific candidate, and focusing on the issue od getting involved with the Democratic Party, the convention that Charlene attended is one example of the benefits of being involved with the Democratic Party. Charlene got to hear and meet a candidate that excited her, very early in the process. It is just one of the many benefits of the being an active member of the Party.


Posted by: Kate | May 15, 2006 8:53:56 PM

Bob, When I say campaigns are going out of business, I mean that every campaign is coming to an end. I do not believe that machines will take over campaigns. I believe that person to person contact is the way that we will win elections. Kate

Posted by: Kate | May 15, 2006 8:57:40 PM

Gotta run. Will check back later for an answer about the disconnect between newcomers and old timers in the party (hoping for some advise on how to create a connection).

Posted by: Jessica | May 15, 2006 8:58:45 PM

Kate - you mentioned a group of bloggers working together to get their message out - I think there's real need to do that before the electronic media is regulated as Charlene has posted and is concerned about. Let's work actively - now - to get that to grow to include as many groups as possible. I also want to thank you for taking the time, and having the patience, to be with us tonight. There really are many people listening to this discussion - we only need to get them excited to participant and flex their political muscle. Glad you could join us - do stay in contact and we'll talk again with you later in the summer. Thanks. Bob

Posted by: Bob | May 15, 2006 9:00:43 PM

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